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Centre eyes Rs 35,100 crore from partial sale of Bharatnet network under National Monetisation Pipeline

According to Niti Aayog, over 2.86 lakh kilometres of optical fibre assets have been laid by BBNL and BSNL under rural broadband project Bharatnet at Rs 26,300 crore

The Union government is likely to rake in as much as Rs 35,100 crore from the partial sale of Bharatnet fibre assets and around 13,500 mobile towers owned by state-run telecom firms as part of its National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP) unveiled by the Union finance Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday.

According to Niti Aayog, over 2.86 lakh kilometres of optical fibre assets has been laid by BBNL and BSNL under rural broadband project Bharatnet at Rs 26,300 crore. As per the National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP) document, BSNL’s 13,567 mobile tower assets and MTNL’s 1,350 towers have been valued at Rs 8,800 crore. Both the PSUs jointly own 69,047 mobile towers.

“Indicative monetisation value of Rs 26,300 crores has been considered over FY23 and FY 24. It may be noted that the actual private investment towards these packages could be lower than the estimated capex and a portion of capex may be met out of the grant,” the NMP document said.

According to the document, the indicative monetisation value for Bharatnet fibre assets is considered based on a capex approach. The total approved cost for the Bharatnet project is Rs 61,109 crore which includes Rs 42,068 crore for BharatNet (Phase-I and Phase-II) and a maximum of Rs 19,041 crore on viability gap funding (VGF) for implementation of the PPP model of BharatNet in 16 states, according to government information shared in Parliament.

As of March 31, 2021, the government has utilised Rs 24,201 crore for the project. “The bidding process for this project (Bharatnet) is expected to be initiated during FY’22 and the actual outlay of capex will happen over 2 years from the date of award,” the document said.

According to the NMP, 5,25,706 kilometres of optical fibre has been laid under the Bharatnet project which aims to connect all villages in the country with a high-speed broadband network. Earlier the scope of the project was limited to 2.5 lakh gram panchayats which have now been extended to village level.

As part of the plan, in the first phase of telecom asset monetisation, proposed in FY’23, the NMP estimates to realise Rs 20,180 crore which includes Rs 15,780 crore from Bharatnet fibre and Rs 4,400 crore from mobile tower sale.

In FY’24, Niti Aayog estimates to realise Rs 14,920 crore comprising Rs 10,520 crore from Bharatnet fibre and Rs 4,400 crore from sale of BSNL and MTNL mobile towers. The NMP proposes to realise 6 lakh crore from asset sale during FY 22-25 across various sectors of which 6 per cent value is expected to be realised from the telecom sector.

“The NMP is meant to serve as an essential roadmap for the Asset monetisation of various brownfield infrastructure assets across roads, railways, shipping, aviation, power, telecom, oil and gas, and warehousing sectors,” the document said.

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